Retail technology vendor innovation: Oracle

What is Oracle?

Business software and hardware systems vendor Oracle operates on a global scale and counts a significant number of retailers among its customer base. Grocer Morrisons, fashion retailer River Island and department store chain John Lewis are among the company's current clients in the UK.

With the company operating across many different areas of the retail space, Essential Retail caught up with Sarah Taylor, senior director, EMEA, Oracle Retail, to find out what's new at the business and to understand her views on the current state of the retail industry.

What's new at Oracle?

Back in 2011, Oracle published the white paper 'Commerce Anywhere: A Business and Technology Strategy to Maximise Cross-Channel Commerce Growth'. The themes detailed in the document, including how businesses need to adopt a holistic view of customers and serve them in a personal way across all channels, is even more relevant today as smartphone adoption has grown and consumers have come to expect a seamless service.

"Oracle Retail is working with global retail brands to deliver 'Commerce Anywhere', a shopping experience that works for every consumer across every channel," explained Taylor.

"Mobile, social, digital channels are producing almost infinite permutations of consumer journeys. This creates new possibilities and challenges for a retailer's systems.

"Retailers are now expected to allow transactions to begin in one channel (for instance online), and conclude in another (for instance in-store) – with no loss of perspective on consumer preferences. Oracle's solutions for retail allow retailers to bring all of their operations together from financial and merchandise planning, to assortment planning, to core merchandise operations through store, channel, search and supply chain."

Taylor said this strategy can open up a number of opportunities for retailers, adding: "Right now it is challenging for retailers and they need this kind of footprint to drive growth whether it is around geography, assortment or channel expansion."

What makes Oracle stand out?

Oracle claimed last month that it is now the number two company in the software market, based on rival IBM's recently announced quarterly results. In a statement, Oracle suggested that its software arm's revenue has been $3.1 billion higher than IBM's software business over the companies' respective last four quarters.

It is a declaration by Oracle, rather than an official recognition of its standing behind Microsoft in the global software market, but the statement just goes to highlight the level of competitiveness in the technology market.

Offering her view on what Oracle offers the retail sector, Taylor noted: "Our technology is unique in bringing shoppers a totally connected retail experience, whether they are browsing on a mobile device, buying in a store, whatever their journey.

"Retailers seeking to differentiate their online offer with Oracle are doing some really innovative things. We are seeing more science, mapping search activity and creating decision trees to enhance product placement and individual interactions.

"Our industry proven commerce, stores, supply chain, planning and merchandising solutions help retailers to efficiently manage their investments in inventory across operations, resulting in a profitable return on investments."

Taylor identifies the work it has done with the John Lewis Partnership in the UK as a notable example of how retailers can provide a seamless service on a multichannel level, and the company has certainly been held up as a leader in multichannel retailing in recent years.

"The John Lewis Partnership stands out for its continued embracing of the multichannel philosophy in terms of how it targets the consumer and how it handles the logistics of managing its service levels between the store and online," she argued.

What the director says…

The senior director also suggested that the UK's largest retailer Tesco has started to focus on innovation in the social and communal elements of the shopping experience – a strategy that she believes more retailers are now beginning to adopt.

Pure-play giant Amazon is still the brand everyone else is competing against, she added, highlighted by the fact consumers are shopping across its international sites rather than moving elsewhere. This level of customer loyalty is what many other businesses are looking to achieve.

Taylor said: "Right now the market needs more informed innovation. Retailers cannot afford to take unjustified risks and don't have the time for lengthy cost reduction processes, etc.

"Retail is all about innovation and taking risks, but when growth opportunities are around new markets, new channels you need to read the trends early, you need the science. Oracle is unique in being able to deliver that level and combination of consumer science."